Olive, known under the scientific name Olea Europea, is a subtropical variety of an evergreen tree cultivated for its edible fruits known under the same name. Both the fruit and its oil are key elements in all the cuisines of the Mediterranean countries and are also very popular outside the region.
The tree has been cultivated for thousand of years. The edible varieties of olive were cultivated 3500 years BCE on the island of Crete. Olive oil was known to ancient Romans and Greeks and was an important crop. It quickly spread to all the countries in the Mediterranean region and is cultivated until today as both an ornamental and edible plant.
Olive trees reach up to 12 meters in height and produce a large number of branches. It has leathery, lance-shaped leaves that are dark green on the upper part, and silvery on the bottom part. The leaves are paired opposite on the twigs. Olive wood is resistant to decay. It also is capable of regrowing from the roots of the dead tree. The blooming season begins in late spring. The tree produces small flowers that are usually white. They are borne in small clusters and from the axils of the leaves. It is wind-pollinated. In some areas, the tree bears fruit in alternate years due to the lack of proper fertilization. The tree also tends to bear irregular crops. Olive fruit is commonly classed as a drupe which is similar to the plum. The flesh covers up to two seeds.
Olives are cultivated commercially in many countries of the Mediterranean region and warmer regions of the United States. It is mainly grown for the production of olive oil. Olive oil is divided into several groups according to defined standards. There is virgin, pure, refined, lampante, and sulfide olive oil. Spain and Italy are the world's most prominent commercial olive producers in the world. They are followed by Greece. Another significant production of both olive fruits and olive oil takes place in Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Portugal, and Algeria. Some varieties such as the Mission are grown in the USA, especially in California.